WULINGYUAN SCENIC AREA
Located in northwestern Hunan, the Wulingyuan Scenic Area consists of three parts: Zhangjiajie National Park, Suoxiyu Nature Reserve and Tianzi Mountain Natural Reserve, covering a total area of 135 square miles.
Wulingyuan boasts some 3,100 quartz and sandstone peaks (of which over 1,000 rise at least 650 feet), which appear spectacular, lofty and elegant. It is a dramatic and unusual sight to have such a large forest of natural peaks with quartz and sandstone base. This, along with the the mysterious deep valleys and grottos, offers numerous fantastic views.
In dense forests covering over 90 percent of the scenic area, you will find rare species of trees and rare species of birds and animals. There also are streams, brooks, springs, lakes and waterfalls. Zhangjiajie, in particular, is rich in forest resources, featuring both virgin and artificial secondary forests. It is home to some 3,000 species of high-grade plants of which 35 are rare species under protection. There are also 116 types of animals living in Zhangjiajie, the first national park in China.
The Wulingyuan Scenic Area was listed as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site in 1992.
ZHANGJIAJIE NATIONAL PARK
Covering some 50 square miles, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is known for being the first national forest park of China as well as for being the highlight of the gorgeous Wulingyuan Scenic Area. The park was originally a state-run tree farm, which was founded in 1958, and then was officially approved to be a national forest park in 1982.
Located in a subtropical climate, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is endowed with a unique “micro climate of forest”– cool in summer and warm in winter. It is home to abundant flora and fauna including civet cats, giant salamanders, satyr tragopans, dove trees, maidenhair trees, Chinese yews, and Chinese tulip trees. Such a dense forest serves as a huge natural “oxygen bar.” The park also serves as a museum for the pristine ethnic culture of the region.
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park has five scenic areas – Huangshizhai, Golden Whip Stream, Yaozizhai, Yuanjiajie, and Yangjiajie – open to visitors. At present, six travel routes including 468 sightseeing spots have been developed at the park and a wide range of up to four-star hotels provide visitors with more than 4,000 beds.
GOLDEN WHIP STREAM
Golden Whip Brook is located inside the Wulingyuan Scenic Area of Zhangjiajie and several places of interest can be found nearby. The brook meanders its way through 3.5 miles of mountains and valleys, from north to south. The further you venture upstream, the fewer people you’ll see.
You can enjoy the dense forest and oddly-shaped peaks while hiking alongside the stream. Many visitors enjoy resting on a rock by the stream and watching fish swimming in the water. The park is a great place to escape the summer heat, and is a natural oxygen bar.
Nearby places of interest include Golden Whip Rock, Purple Grass Pond, Jumping Fish Pond and Zhangliang Tomb, the park’s premier man-made attraction.
SUOXI VALLEY NATURE RESERVE
The Suoxi Valley Nature Reserve is located in the northeastern part of the Wulingyuan Scenic Zone in Zhangjiajie. A stream flows through the mountain gully; and many high peaks in various forms on both sides of gully shrouded in drifting mist look like a group of nature sculptures.
Suoxi Valley covers an area of more than 180 square kilometers and is the largest of the three zones. Unlike the solitary stone monoliths of Zhangjiajie, the mountains of Suoxiyu stretch out one after another, like an unfolding scroll of a Chinese painting. However, in the east, there is a collection of caves, for example, Yellow Dragon Cave and Goddess Cave. These are caves made of limestone.
Besides the rock formations and beautiful rivers and streams, a distinct feature of Suoxiyu is its bridges and caves. Constructed on cliffs, the bridges are noted for their risky location. Most of them were built by hand of blocks of rocks chiseled to dovetail perfectly together. The limestone caves create fascinating underground palaces. Altogether there are 59 of them, many full of odd and unique shaped stalactites and stalagmites.
In terms of rare animals, Suoxi Valley boasts more than 20 species, such as leopards, pangolins, and giant salamanders. There are more than 20 groups of rhesus monkeys with their total number reaching to 1,000. According to scientific statistics, trees here have 93 families, 208 genus, and 679 species in all. Among them, those that are under national special protection reach to 19 species. Wild medicinal herbs are extraordinarily rich. There are 500 species in all.
Tianzi Mountain is named after Xiang Dakun who led the local farmers’ revolt and called himself Tianzi — the Son of Heaven. Bounded by Suoxi Valley on the east, Zhangjiajie on the south, Sangzhi County on the north, Tianzi Mountain is one of the four scenic zones in Wulingyuan.
It lies on the highest point of “Golden Triangle,” its highest point being 4,140 feet (Kunlun peak) and lowest point being 1,750 feet (Shilan valley). It has an area of 25 square miles, an average temperature of 53°F, a frost-free period of 240 days and a frozen period of 60-80 days. The majority of scenic spots is formed of quart stones, belonging to sandstone ground feature which is the same as Suoxiyu Valley and Zhangjiajie.
Situated in the west of Suoxiyu Valley, it is a basin-like landform with a collection of peaks and woods. In this “sea”, numerous peaks stand with different shapes and poses, covered with lush vegetation. Therefore, it is called “sea of trees” and “sea of peaks”. In spring or summer or a clear day immediately after a rain in autumn, the clouds are surging and rolling like waves, covering the whole sky and earth. The view is so magnificent that it is called “sea of clouds”. The combination of the three seas is the characteristic of West Sea. In it, Gate to Heaven and Sky Terrace are wonderful scenes.
Shentang Valley is also named Shentang Fort. It is a gorge shaped like a huge basin walled by lofty precipices. The bottom of the gorge is veiled in mists and clouds all day, adding to its mysteriousness. As the saying goes, the most beautiful scene is seen from the most perilous peak. There are almost no roads to Shentang Valley, only a quite dangerous flight of stairs that is as wide as a foot being available. Local people say, “Every step kills one soul”. In the center of the bottom lies a fathomless green pond. Looking down the pond from the mouth of the gorge, one can’t help shivering. What’s peculiar is that visitors can hear sounds of gongs and drums, neighs of battle steeds and shouts of men echoing from the bottom. Nobody can give a reasonable answer to this mystery. Therefore, Shentang Valley was a forbidden place in Wulingyuan and a puzzle for hundreds of years.
It is located at the foot of Tianzi Mountain. Suoxi Valley Scenic Spot is named as “Ten-mile Gallery”,with looks like outdoor sculpture showroom .Along two sides of the river, there display many great hills and cliffs. The Gallery offers an amazing experience of beauty. It is like an exhibition based in the gorge. Along the road are 200 peaks like old man collecting medicine, parents holding a son, and three Sisters and so on. It has a fleet and clean river on-flowing with the width the width of 6 meters and length of 5km. Story of a Chinese Cartoon is based on the Ten-mile Gallery. Hiking on it, you could enjoy smell of flowers, singing of birds, purity of water, and touching of wind. Along the road you could see a train track (Mini Rail). If you don’t want to walk, you could take a ride on the electric train which would take you enjoy it slowly.
HUANGSHIZHAI – YELLOW STONE
The Huangshizhai Village, also called Yellow Lion Village or Yellow Stone Village, refers to a huge mountain land in the middle part of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. As the essence of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park Scenic Area, Huangshizhai possesses quite concentrated attractions, well worth visiting. It was said that Huangshi Gong, the master of Zhang Liang (an important adviser in West Han Dynasty) once produced elixir here.
With an elevation of 1080 meters, Huangshi Village is a high, magnificent and vast sightseeing platform, a high-south, low-north terrace composed of many cliffs in the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. This place is a The top consists of more than 20 hectares, with over 10 scene viewing platforms from where one can enjoy majestic sandstone peak forests. People even say that not visiting Huangshizhai is equivalent to not visiting Zhangjiajie.
Major Attractions: Treasure Box with Sealedbook, Devine Needle, Great Southern Pillar, Left Piers.
The elevation of Tianmen Mountain is 4,980 feet (the highest in Zhangjiajie); people be amazed that about 40 peaks inside the mountain area are over 3,200 feet. Due to the high elevation of the mountain, the day time is longer than the night hours and the temperature on the mountains is about 10 degree centigrade lower than the Zhangjiajie city, the sunrise on the mountain is 30 minutes earlier and the sunset is 45 minutes later than it is in the city areas. Thus it is known as an endless sky without darkness.
The mountain is famous for its unique natural miracle – the Tianmen Cave; it was authorized as a national forest park in July, 1992. The door-alike cave was created after the cliff collapsing in ancient time. Tianmen Mountain is rich in Chinese culture; it is regarded as the Top 1 Heaven Mountain in the west part of Hunan province. This place has absorbed the essence from the nature for thousands years, therefore visiting the holy temple on the mountain – Tianmen Mountain Temple has become a popular way to pray for a safe and healthy life.
Four wonders at Tianmen Mountain include:
- The Tianmen Mountain Cableway:
It is the longest mountain cableway in the world, the hypotenuse length of the cableway is 24,459 feet (more than 4.5 miles), starting from the city center of Zhangjiajie to the ‘Hanging Garden’ on the peak. Guests may feel how hard when it was built once sitting in the cable car. The amazing man-made project will bring you a memorable experience seeing the changing of mountain views and landscapes.
- Tianmen Cave (means the Heaven’s Gate in Chinese):
The cave is on the precipices and is over 4,133 feet elevation, the height of the cave is 431.5 feet and the width is about 50 meters, the unusual grotto is grand and magnificent. The cave is like the door to heaven; it looks like the junction of common world and the place where god lives. Guest may need to walk up 999 steps to reach the cave, it will be tried but lucky, because ‘9’ is the biggest number in Chinese culture and 999 means an eternal/forever life. The highlight of Tianmen Cave is the mystic views of fog and cloud. Watching the changing of clouds and fogs, the feeling is like traveling in a place with profound questions asked by the god.
- Heaven-linking Avenue:
Actually it is the twisting mountain road from the foot of the mountains to the ‘Heaven Ladders’ of Tianmen Cave. The mountain road is only less than 11 kilometers but the elevation rises rapidly from 200 meters to 1300 meters. Ninety nine turnings decorate the holy road and it was built with over a hundred million of Chinese Yuan investment together with a 5 years hard working. The twisting road is like a white dragon lying on the mountains, this road is regarded as the most amazing mountain road in the world. This road is used for mountain bike cycle races, definitely it is interesting and exciting to ride bicycle at Tianmenshan, and bicycle lovers focus more on the beautiful sceneries along the road and the challenge to conquer such a mountain distance.
- Bonsai Garden (Hanging Garden):
As an national forest park, on the peak of Tianmen Mountain locate big primeval forests, the main area being protected is named Bi ye yao tai scenic areas (in the east of the peak areas). The whole area looks like a natural bonsai and over 20 attractions can be seen there, it is the biggest one of the four scenic areas of Tianmen Mountain.
YUANJIAJIE SCENIC AREA
Located in the northwest part of the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Hunan, Yuanjiajie is a naturally formed platform mountain, surrounded by higher summits which are divided by deep valleys. The area is reachable from the Tianzishan Scenic Area (Emperor Mountain) by bus in 40 minutes. Added to this scene is an array of amazing lesser peaks and grotesque rocks, each standing in the valley and possesses its own peculiar shape.
There are up to now only two ways lead to the Yuanjiajie Scenic Area: One is from the Golden Whip Stream via Luanchuanpo to the Back Garden; the other is the Bailong Elevator. By this super elevator, tourists can ascend on the top of a peak to get a commanding view of its famous scene – Shenbingjuhui (lit. God’s Force Rally), the scene is also nicknamed the Fields and Gardens of the Heaven for its beautiful trees, ethnic houses and paddy fields on the high mountains.
The foremost attractions in this area include: Back Garden, breathtaking Mihun Stage, the First Bridge under the Sun, etc. Yuanjiajie lies between Huangshi Village (yellow stone stronghold) and Tianzi Mountain (Emperor Mountain). From Zhangjiajie National Forest Park there are approaches to the Yuanjiajie.
The northern part of Yuanjiajie Scenic Area is the essential tourist route. Yuanjiajie is a natural platform that faces giant rocks rising from deep valleys and surrounded by higher mountains. Unique in their shapes and covered with pine trees, these rocks resemble a vivid Chinese painting. Main scenic spots include: Back Garden, breath taking Mihun Stage and the First Bridge under the Sun.
Zhangjiajie Bailong Elevator, is a glass elevator built on the side of a huge rock in the Wulingyuan in Zhangjiajie, China, 1070 ft (330m) high, the construction of the Bailong lift began in October 1999, and was open to the public in 2002.
Claimed to be the world’s tallest glass elevator, Bailong Elevator is built onto the side of a huge cliff in Zhangjiajie and takes you a whopping 1,070 feet high. It is the highest outdoor elevator in the world and it has three Guinness world Records i.e. World’s tallest full-exposure outdoor elevator, world’s tallest double-deck sightseeing elevator and world’s fastest passenger traffic elevator with biggest carrying capacity but due to the potential harm caused to the surrounding landscape, its future remains uncertain.
This is a natural attraction, and recommended for a visit if you like taking photos. The scenic area was firstly developed by chance: it was a peaceful gorge many years ago and the local people built a reservoir (72 meters tall) within the rocks, only with the purpose of storing water for irrigation. People never expected that after the project, beautiful scenery would be created, and now it has become the famed Baofeng Lake. The well-known television series “a Journey to the West” (first version) was filmed here. Baofeng Lake is an artificial lake created by blocking gorge and building dam. The shape of the lake is a square, with a length of 2.5 kilometers and a width ranged from 200 to 1000 meters. The average depth of the water is 72 meters. The water of the Baofeng Lake is absolutely clean and without pollution, as it is an alpine lake. Looking down from the hills, the lake is like a Jade surrounded in the mountains. Sailing to the centre island on the green lake, boarding on the lakeshore for a visit to the stockade village of the Eagle’s nest (Yingwo Zhai) is an agreeable experience for tourists.
Baofeng lake not only attracts tourists from all over the world, but also attracts the natural animals. Every October of the Lunar calendar, a mass of Yuanyang bird (mandarin duck) will fly to the lake from the north to avoid the chilly winter. The birds would like to choose here as their habitat as the water in the lake is of high quality and the water temperature is warm; the lake will not freeze in the winter. The three islands in the lake center are called the island for the mandarin ducks.
The Baofeng Waterfall is located right in front of the entrance gate, flying down from one hundred meters above with a thunderous sound and is regarded as an attraction of spectacularity.
There are over 20 famous attractions in the Baofeng Lake scenic areas including the mentioned Baofeng Waterfall, a Thread of Sky, a plank road built along the face of a cliff named the Cloudy Cliff Plank Road , the Stockade Village of the Eagle’s Nest, the South Sea, etc. The Stockade Village built on the mountain is over 1000 meters’ height; therefore it was named as the nest of the eagles. An ancient temple was built there; it is a mysterious place for the devout men and women.
Visitors can cruise on Baofeng Lake. The most impressive thing you may see during the cruise is the local girls singing their folk song, and you can sing with them! The cruise is the highlight of a visit of the lake.
YELLOW DRAGON CAVE
This is one of the earliest caves open for tourism and it is known as the wonder of the world caves.
Yellow Dragon Cavern is a typical Karst cave, an area of irregular limestone in which erosion has produced fissures, underground streams, and caverns. So far, the discovered cave is about 15 kilometers long and 140 meters high, covering an area of 48 hectares. The Cavern can be divided into two parts. One is the dry cave, and the other is the water cave. Even in the Yellow Dragon Cavern, there are caves inside caves, and one cave may lead to many others. Sometimes there are caves under the ground too. Stalactites, stalagmites, stone blossoms, stone curtains, stone branches, stone canals, stone pearls, and stone macrospores can be seen here and there in the cavern, which constitutes a fantastic yet natural scene.
The features of the Yellow Dragon Cavern can be summarized into six sentences. First, it features numerous mysterious caves. Second, it boasts to be one of the largest of the karst caverns in China. Third, the limestone in the cavern is a variety of fantastic shapes. Fourth, the limestone here is colorful, glittering and translucent. Fifth, the limestone and the water here sometimes give out attractive sounds, like music from heaven. Finally, boating is possible in the under streams in the cavern.